On the final day of the 2019 cricket season, even an unlikely league title for the Arthington 1st XI was still a possibility and the team did all they could to make the dream of a third successive promotion a reality by comfortably beating Birstwith to earn a 20-point victory.
Birstwith, who had their own agenda to consider at the opposite end of the table, decided to bowl first upon winning the toss, seeing that as their best chance to accumulate the most batting and bowling points, in the event of a defeat. This allowed last week’s successful 133-run opening partnership of Sajid Hussain and Naveed Andrabi to carry on where they left off. Things did start positively in this innings as well, though neither batsman played quite as fluently on this occasion, which may have had something to do with a pitch that was doing a little bit, including some inconsistent bounce; evident throughout the match.
Andrabi soon hit his stride though, with Hussain starting more sedately, and the score had reached 74 before the fall of the first wicket; a disastrous run out where the two batsmen were in complete disagreement over the possibility of a single. Andrabi set off and was two thirds of the way down the pitch before being sent back, with Hussain unmoved at the striker’s end. The resulting throw was taken at the stumps to leave Andrabi well-short of his ground. His 44 came in just 40 balls and included 5 fours and 2 sixes.
Hussain adopted the role of the aggressor once Andrabi had departed and began playing some more attacking shots to all areas of the ground. The fifth Birstwith player to bowl proved most effective and took the wickets of Matt Moss and Ahmer Sadiq, both of whom struggled to get going. Despite the pair being dismissed for 7 apiece, they formed healthy partnerships with Hussain as he swung the willow from the other end. However, just two deliveries after Sadiq’s dismissal, Hussain lost his wicket, finally missing the ball having come down the wicket to meet it. His efforts to get back in his crease were in vain, as he was easily stumped by the second of Birstwith’s wicket keepers on the day. Hussain made an important 71 in the context of the match from 101 balls, including 6 fours and 4 sixes.
Khamrosh Khan took over the mantle from Hussain and played excellently to remain not out, scoring at over a run a ball. With the overs running out and wickets in hand, the remaining Arthington batsmen did the right thing in wasting little time to get themselves in and instead trying to score runs in as quick a manner as possible. Andrew Dowson, Wasim Malik and Dave Cleasby all hit boundaries in their short cameos and there was even time for Akash Hazra to hit his only ball, the final one of the innings, for four over cover. Khan finished 38 not out from 30 balls, hitting 3 fours and 2 sixes in the process. Arthington’s final first innings score: 215-7.
After a bountiful tea interval, Birstwith began their innings and lost one of their opening batsmen in only the second over. In fairness to the batsman, he did his best to fend off a short-pitched ball from Naveed Andrabi, but it bounced more than anticipated and looped off his gloves straight into the waiting mits of wicket keeper Andrew Dowson behind the stumps. Having regained a little control of a free-flowing start with Andrabi, Luke Seaborne took the second Birstwith wicket. The batsman was induced into a straight drive that he did not really get hold of and Umer Khan took a straightforward catch at mid-off.
The third wicket partnership proved a tough nut to crack. In the end, the 71-run stand was broken by Wasim Malik in his first over, after several other bowlers had tried and failed. Having already hit two boundaries in the over and being one run short of an excellent fifty, the number four batsman clearly had visions of striking another one to the rope. However, his attempted drive only went upwards and after a long time in the air, the ball was well held by Malik himself, running across the square and catching as the ball came over his shoulder.
The innings had reached the 33rd over before the fourth wicket fell. In seemingly a final attempt to make a breakthrough, knowing that every wicket and bowling point was vital, captain Andrabi threw the ball to Umer Khan. Despite turning up on time and in the right place earlier in the day, Khan had somehow forgotten all his kit except his whites and so ran in to bowl wearing black trainers and his now customary headband, in a magnificent contrast, perhaps looking to emulate Arthington’s veteran hair specialist, Ahmer Sadiq. However daft he may have looked, what followed was nothing short of spectacular and surely one of the most remarkable spells of bowling ever seen at the ACG.
His first wicket came from only his third ball when the batsman lofted a drive to long-off and was caught by Khamrosh Khan. At the other end, Malik (7-0-31-2) took his second wicket with a full-toss that smashed into middle stump. Umer Khan then took two wickets in his second over, the first was a full delivery that clattered into the poles and the second an unfortunate inside edge that brought about the same result. A further two wickets fell in Khan’s third over. Having batted through the entire innings at this point, reaching 52, the remaining opening batsman took a swing at a ball that was full and wide outside off-stump. The ball skewed off the outside edge and somehow carried all the way to Matt Moss at deep point, who made his way across the undulating Arthington outfield to take a smart catch. Four balls later and Moss’ big brain struck again, having moved himself to backward square leg, where he felt sure a catch would come his way. Sure enough, the batsman flicked a leg-side full-toss straight to Moss, who didn’t have to move to take a simple catch and give Khan his fifth wicket.
In his fourth and final over, the 39th of the innings, Khan wrapped up the match, forcing an edge behind to wicket keeper Dowson, who took a fine diving catch at the second attempt. Birstwith all out for 169. Arthington won the match by 46 runs, with Umer Khan finishing with extraordinary bowling figures of 3.3-0-14-6, the 19th best ever set of bowling figures in the history of Arthington cricket club but surely the best in terms of strike rate; a wicket every 3.5 balls.
Having done all they could to give themselves a chance at going up, Arthington were ultimately left disappointed as both teams above them managed to win, meaning that they finish the season in third place. They will look back at several games earlier in the season where they suffered defeat, most notably perhaps the reverse fixture against Birstwith, where they were thoroughly outplayed. However, Arthington 1st XI can take pride in how they ended their season, winning their last 6 games played and not losing a match since mid-July.
Sadly, the Arthington 2nd XI suffered another defeat against their favourite opponents, North Stainley, who they faced for the fourth time this season. This match was a much closer encounter than their most recent clash, with North Stainley needing until the final over to clinch victory. Batting first, Arthington posted 141-7 from their 40 overs, Martin Dickinson 45. North Stainley reached 144-5 after 39.3 overs. Vince Greaves-Newall and Martin Hings with two wickets apiece and a special mention to Zameer Ahmed, in what could be his final game for Arthington, for bowling six maidens from his ten overs. Because division seven is a complicated one, splitting in two halfway through, it’s difficult to say exactly how well the second XI fared over the season as a whole. However, after a promising start with five wins from their first six games, they ended the season in disappointing fashion with eleven consecutive defeats, including two concessions, which is very unfortunate.Arthington Cricket Club thanks the match ball sponsors for the final fixtures of the season:
1st XI match ball sponsor: Colin Seaborne
2nd XI match ball sponsor: Moortown Councillors
Thanks to everyone in and outside of the club for your kind words during the season regarding the match reports, I hope that you have enjoyed them and that I could paint a picture for those not playing or in attendance of the Arthington 1st XI’s experiences throughout the season.